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The Right Honourable
 Sir Austen Chamberlain 

Sir Austen Chamberlain, senior British statesman

In office
11 August 1902 – 9 October 1903
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by The Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded by Lord Stanley

In office
9 October 1903 – 4 December 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by Charles Thomson Ritchie
Succeeded by H.H. Asquith
In office
10 January 1919 – 1 April 1921
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Andrew Bonar Law
Succeeded by Sir Robert Horne

In office
25 May 1915 – 17 July 1917
Monarch George V
Prime Minister H.H. Asquith (1915-1916)
David Lloyd George (1916-1917)
Preceded by The Marquess of Crewe
Succeeded by Edwin Samuel Montagu

In office
1 April 1921 – 23 October 1922
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Andrew Bonar Law
Succeeded by Lord Robert Cecil

In office
3 November 1924 – 4 June 1929
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by Ramsay MacDonald
Succeeded by Arthur Henderson

In office
24 August – 5 November 1931
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
(Coalition Government)
Preceded by A.V. Alexander
Succeeded by Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell

Born 16 October 1863(1863-10-16)
Birmingham, England
Died 17 March 1937 (aged 73)
Nationality British

Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, KG (16 October 1863 – 17 March 1937) was a British statesman and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Early life and career

Austen Chamberlain was born in Birmingham, the second child and eldest son of Joseph Chamberlain, then a rising industrialist and political radical, later Lord Mayor of Birmingham and a dominant figure in Liberal and Unionist politics at the end of the 19th Century. His mother, the former Harriet Kenrick, died in childbirth. Austen's father was so shaken by this event that for almost twenty-five years, he maintained a distance from his firstborn son. In 1868 he married for the second time, to Harriet's cousin, Florence, and had further children, the oldest of whom, Neville, would become Prime Minister in the year of Austen's death.

Austen was educated first at Rugby School, before passing on to Trinity College, Cambridge.[1] Chamberlain made his first political address there in 1884 at a meeting of the Political Society of his university, and it would appear that from an early age his father had intended for politics to be his Austen's future path. He was Vice-President of the Cambridge Union Society.

With this in mind, Austen was dispatched first to France, where he studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (best known as the Sciences Po). Whilst there, Austen developed a lasting admiration (some would say love) for the French people and their culture. For nine months, he was shown the brilliance of Paris under the Third Republic, and met and dined with the likes of Georges Clemenceau and Alexandre Ribot.

From Paris, Austen was sent to Berlin for twelve months, there to imbibe the political culture of the other great European power, Germany. Though in his letters home to Beatrice and Neville he showed an obvious preference for France and the lifestyle he had left behind there, Chamberlain undertook to learn German and learn from his experience in the capital of the Kaiserreich. Among others, Austen met and dined with the “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck, an experience which was to hold a special place in his heart for the duration of his life.

While attending the University of Berlin, Austen also developed a suspicion for the pronounced nationalism then arising in the German Empire. This was based upon his experience of the lecturing style of Heinrich von Treitschke, who opened up to Austen "a new side of the German character - a narrow-minded, proud, intolerant Prussian chauvinism", the consequences of which he was later to ponder during the First World War, and the crises of the 1930s.

Though he was again upset to leave his newfound friends and return to the constraints of life under his father’s roof, Austen returned to the United Kingdom in 1888, lured largely by the prize of a parliamentary constituency.

He was first elected to parliament as a member of his father's own Liberal Unionist Party in 1892, sitting for the seat of East Worcestershire. Owing to the prominence of his father and the alliance between the anti-Home Rule Liberal Unionists and Conservative Party, Chamberlain was returned unopposed on 30 March, and at the first sitting of the new session, Austen walked up the floor of the house flanked by his father and his uncle Richard.

Owing to the dissolution of parliament and the August general election, Chamberlain was unable to make his maiden speech until April 1893. This speech, when delivered, was acclaimed by the four-time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone as “one of the best speeches which has been made”. That Chamberlain was speaking against Gladstone’s Second Home Rule Bill does not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister, who responded by publicly congratulating both Austen and his father Joseph on such an excellent performance. This was highly significant, given the bad blood existing between Joseph Chamberlain and his former leader.

Appointed a junior Whip of the Liberal Unionists after the general election, Austen’s main role was to act as his father’s “standard bearer” in matters of policy. Upon the massive Conservative and Unionist landslide win in the election of 1895, Chamberlain was appointed a Civil Lord of the Admiralty, holding that post until 1900, when he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury. In 1902, following the retirement of Prime Minister Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Chamberlain was promoted to the position of Postmaster General by the new premier, the Conservative Arthur James Balfour.

In the wake of the struggle between his father and Balfour, Austen Chamberlain became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1903. Austen's appointment was largely a compromise solution to the bitter division of the two Unionist heavyweights, which threatened to split the coalition between supporters of Chamberlain's free-trade campaign and Balfour's more cautious advocacy of protectionism. While Austen supported his father’s programme, his influence within the cabinet was diminished following the departure of the senior Chamberlain to the back benches. Facing a resurgent Liberal opposition and the threat of an internal party split, Balfour eventually took the Unionists into opposition in December 1905, and in the ensuing rout in the election of 1906, Austen Chamberlain found himself one of the few surviving Liberal Unionists in the House of Commons.

Following his father's stroke and enforced retirement from active politics a few months later, Austen became the effective leader of the Tariff Reform campaign within the Unionist Party, and thus a contender for the eventual leadership of the party itself.

Leadership questions

With the Unionists in disarray after the two successive electoral defeats of 1910, Arthur James Balfour was forced from his position as party leader in November 1911. Chamberlain was one of the leading candidates to succeed as Conservative leader - even though he was still technically only a member of the Liberal Unionist wing of the coalition (the two parties merged formally in 1912). Chamberlain was opposed by Canadian-born Andrew Bonar Law, Walter Long and the Irish Unionist Sir Edward Carson, though given their standing in the party, only Chamberlain and Long had a realistic chance of success. Though Balfour had intended Chamberlain to succeed him, it became clear from an early canvass of the sitting MPs that Long would be elected by a slender margin. After a short period of internal party campaigning, Chamberlain determined to withdraw from the contest for the good of the still-divided party. He succeeded in persuading Long to withdraw with him, in favour of Bonar Law, who was subsequently chosen by unanimous vote as a compromise candidate.

Chamberlain's action, though it prevented him from attaining the party leadership, and arguably ultimately the premiership, did a great deal to maintain unity within the Conservative and Liberal Unionist parties at a time of great uncertainty and strain.

Taking the offertory.
Mr. Austen Chamberlain (as Sidesman). "The threepenny-bit is economical, perhaps; but a desirable coin, from my point of view, it is not.".
Cartoon from Punch magazine Vol. 158, 25 February 1920, after a debate in the House of Commons in which Chamberlain spoke in favour of continuing to mint the threepenny-bit, against the objections of others who cited the displeasure of churchwardens with the coin.

Years of crisis and the First World War

In the last years before the outbreak of the Great War, Chamberlain was concerned with one issue above all others: Home Rule for Ireland. The issue which had prompted his father to split the Liberal Party in the 1880s now threatened to spill over into outright civil war, with the government of Herbert Henry Asquith committed to the passage of a Third Home Rule Bill. Chamberlain was resolutely opposed to the dissolution of the Union with Ireland, and to the strain of these years was added the death of his father in July 1914, only a few days after the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand began the train of events which led to the First World War.

Pressure from the Conservative opposition, in part led by Chamberlain, eventually resulted in the formation of the wartime coalition government, in 1915. Chamberlain joined the cabinet as Secretary of State for India. Chamberlain remained at the India Office after Lloyd George succeeded Asquith as Prime Minister in late 1916, but following the failure of various British campaigns in Mesopotamia (undertaken by the separately-administered Indian Army), Chamberlain resigned his post in 1917. Chamberlain did not resign because of any failures on his part, but rather according to his principles: he was the minister ultimately responsible, so the fault lay with him. He was widely acclaimed for such a selfless act.[2]

Later he returned to government and became a member of the War Cabinet in 1918. Following the victory of the Lloyd George coalition in the elections of 1918, Chamberlain was again appointed to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Chamberlain immediately faced the huge task of restoring Britain’s finances after four disastrous years of wartime expenditure.


Citing ill health, Bonar Law retired from the leadership of the Conservative branch of the Lloyd George government in the spring of 1921. Due to his seniority and the general dislike of Lord Curzon, his counterpart in the House of Lords, Chamberlain succeeded Bonar Law as leader of the party in the House of Commons and also took over in the office of Lord Privy Seal. He was succeeded at the Exchequer by Sir Robert Horne, and it seemed that after ten years of waiting, Austen would again be given the opportunity of succeeding to the premiership. The Lloyd George coalition was beginning to falter, following numerous scandals and the unsuccessful conclusion of the Anglo-Irish War, and it was widely believed that it would not survive until the next general election. Strangely, though he had had little regard for Lloyd George in preceding years, the opportunity of working closely with the “Welsh Wizard” gave Chamberlain a new insight into his nominal superior in the government (by now, the Conservative party was by far the largest partner in the government).

This was an unfortunate change of allegiance for Chamberlain, for by late 1921 the Conservative rank-and-file was growing more and more restless for an end to the coalition and a return to single-party (and therefore Conservative) government. Conservatives in the House of Lords began to publicly oppose the coalition, and disregarded calls for support from Chamberlain. In the country at large Conservative candidates began to oppose the coalition at by-elections and this discontent spread to the House of Commons. In the autumn of 1922, Chamberlain faced a backbench revolt (largely led by Stanley Baldwin) designed to oust Lloyd George, and when he summoned a meeting of Conservative MPs at the Carlton Club on 19 October, a motion in favour of fighting the forthcoming election as an independent party. Chamberlain resigned the party leadership rather than act against what he believed to be his duty, and was succeeded by Andrew Bonar Law, whose views and intentions he had divined the evening before the vote at a private meeting. Bonar Law formed a government shortly thereafter, but Chamberlain was not given a post nor, it would seem, would have he accepted a position had it been offered. Chamberlain therefore was the only Commons leader of the Conservative Party in the twentieth century not to attain the post of Prime Minister until William Hague.[3]

Foreign Secretary and the triumph of Locarno

With Stresemann and Briand at Locano

At the second resignation of Bonar Law in May 1923 (Law would die from throat cancer later the same year), Chamberlain was passed over again for the leadership of the party in favour of Stanley Baldwin. Baldwin offered Chamberlain the post of Lord Privy Seal, but Chamberlain insisted that other former ministers from the Coalition should be included as well and Baldwin refused. However Chamberlain did return to government when Baldwin formed his second ministry following success in the election of October 1924, serving in the important office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1924 to 1929. In this office, Chamberlain was largely allowed a free hand by the easygoing Baldwin.

It is as Foreign Secretary that Chamberlain’s place in history was finally assured. In a difficult period in international relations, Chamberlain not only faced a split in the Entente Cordiale occasioned by the French invasion of the Ruhr, but also the controversy over the Geneva Protocol (1924), which threatened to dilute British sovereignty over the issue of League of Nations economic sanctions.

Despite the importance to history of these pressing issues, Chamberlain’s reputation chiefly rests on his part in the negotiations over what came to be known as the Locarno Pact of 1925. Seeking to maintain the post-war status quo in the West, Chamberlain responded favourably to the approaches of the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann for a British guarantee of Germany’s western borders. Besides for promoting Franco-German reconciliation, Chamberlain's main motive was to create a situation where Germany could pursue territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe peacefully[4]. Chamberlain's understanding was that if Franco-German relations improved, France would gradually abandon the Cordon sanitaire, as the French alliance system in Eastern Europe was known between the wars[5]. Once France had abandoned its allies in Eastern Europe as the price of better relations with the Reich, this would create an situation where the Poles and Czechoslovaks having no Great Power ally to protect them, would be forced to adjust to German demands, and hence in Chamberlain's view would peacefully hand over the territories claimed by Germany such as the Sudetenland, the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland)[6] In this way, promoting territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe in Germany’s favor was one of Chamberlain's principal reasons for Locrano, and thus Locarno was from the British viewpoint an early instance of Appeasement.

Together with Aristide Briand of France, Chamberlain and Stresemann met at the town of Locarno in October 1925 and signed a mutual agreement (together with representatives from Belgium and Italy) to settle all differences between the nations by arbitration and never resort to war. For his services, Chamberlain was not only awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter. Chamberlain also secured Britain's accession to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which theoretically outlawed war as an instrument of policy. Chamberlain famously said that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was "a man with whom business could be done".

Later career

Following his less-satisfactory engagement in issues in the Far East and Egypt, and the resignation of Baldwin’s government after the election of 1929, Chamberlain resigned his position as Foreign Secretary and went into retirement. He briefly returned to government in 1931 as First Lord of the Admiralty in Ramsay MacDonald's first National Government, but soon retired after having been forced to deal with the unfortunate Invergordon Mutiny.

Over the next six years as a senior backbencher he gave strong support to the National Government but was critical of their foreign policy. In 1935 the government faced a parliamentary rebellion over the Hoare-Laval Pact and Austen’s opposition to the vote of censure is widely believed to have been instrumental in saving the government from defeat on the floor of the House. Chamberlain was again briefly considered for the post of Foreign Secretary, but it is safe to assume that he would have refused if ever asked. Instead his advice was sought as to the suitability of Parliamentary Private Secretary Anthony Eden for the post. Winston Churchill claims in his memoirs that had this crisis ended differently Chamberlain may have been called upon as a respected statesman to form a government of his own, but this view is not widely supported, and may be in part due to Chamberlain’s position as the first public champion of what later became Churchill’s great cause – opposition to the German Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

Last great service

During the period 1934 to 1937, Chamberlain was, with Winston Churchill, Roger Keyes and Leo Amery, the most prominent voice calling for British rearmament in the face of a growing threat from Nazi Germany. In addition to speaking eloquently in Parliament on the matter, he was the chairman of two Conservative parliamentary delegations in late 1936 which met with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, to remonstrate with him about his government’s delay in rearming the British defence forces. More respected in this period than Churchill, Chamberlain became something of an icon to young Conservatives, as the last survivor of the Victorian Age of high politics.

Though he never again served in a government, Sir Austen Chamberlain survived in good health until March 1937, dying just ten weeks before his half-brother Neville Chamberlain finally became the first (and only) member of the distinguished Chamberlain dynasty to become Prime Minister.

Chamberlain died on 17 March 1937 aged 73.

His estate was probated at 45,044 pounds sterling, a relatively modest sum for such a famous public figure. Much of his father's fortune had been lost in an attempt to grow sisal in the West Indies in the early 1890s, and unlike his younger brother, Neville, Austen never went into business to make money for himself.

The personal and political papers of Sir Austen Chamberlain are housed in the Special Collections of the main library of the University of Birmingham.

See also

  • List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s (30 Nov. 1925)

Further reading

For such a prominent historical figure, Chamberlain has had very little attention from academics. The official biography, by Sir Charles Petrie is still quite readable, though the most recent work – by David Dutton – is a far more balanced account. Dutton is widely regarded as the expert in the field, though he disagrees somewhat with Richard Grayson’s assessment of Sir Austen’s views on France and Germany respectively. Some current work is being undertaken on the Chamberlain family by Peter Marsh - author of the most recent biography of Joseph Chamberlain - and Richard Scully is currently working on Sir Austen’s year in Germany and its subsequent effect on his opinions and politics.

  • David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain – Gentleman in Politics, Bolton: R. Anderson, 1985.
  • Richard Grayson, Austen Chamberlain and the Commitment to Europe: British Foreign Policy, 1924-1929, London: Frank Cass, 1997.
  • Sir Charles Petrie, The Chamberlain Tradition, London: Lovat Dickson Limited, 1938.
  • Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of the Right Hon. Sir Austen Chamberlain, London: Cassell & Co., 1939.
  • Robert C. Self (ed.), The Austen Chamberlain Diary Letters: The Correspondence of Sir Austen Chamberlain with his Sisters Hilda and Ida, 1916-1937, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


  1. ^ Chamberlain, Joseph Austen in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ "Chamberlain out of India Office". The New York Times. 1917-07-13. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  3. ^ "The only other Tory leader who failed to make it to Number 10". The Guardian. 2001-06-08.,9407,503935,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  4. ^ Schuker, Stephen “The End of Versailles” pages 38-56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered A.J.P. Taylor And The Historians edited by Gordon Martel Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999 pages 48-49.
  5. ^ Schuker, Stephen “The End of Versailles” pages 38-56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered A.J.P. Taylor And The Historians edited by Gordon Martel Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999 pages 48-49.
  6. ^ Schuker, Stephen “The End of Versailles” pages 38-56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered A.J.P. Taylor And The Historians edited by Gordon Martel Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999 pages 48-49.

External links

Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Woodyatt Hastings
Member of Parliament for East Worcestershire
Succeeded by
Frederick Leverton Harris
Preceded by
Joseph Chamberlain
Member of Parliament for Birmingham West
Succeeded by
Walter Frank Higgs
Political offices
Preceded by
The Marquess of Londonderry
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Lord Stanley
Preceded by
Charles Thomson Ritchie
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
H. H. Asquith
Preceded by
The Earl of Crewe
Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
Edwin Samuel Montagu
Preceded by
Andrew Bonar Law
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Horne
Preceded by
Andrew Bonar Law
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
Lord Robert Cecil
Conservative Leader in the Commons
Succeeded by
Andrew Bonar Law
(as overall leader)
Leader of the British Conservative Party
with The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
Preceded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Arthur Henderson
Preceded by
A. V. Alexander
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Viscount Monsell
Academic offices
Preceded by
Earl of Birkenhead
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by
James Herbert Benyon
Chancellor of the University of Reading
Succeeded by
Sir Samuel Hoare


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain (16 October 186317 March 1937) was a British statesman and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.


  • The combination of the Liberal and Labour Parties is much stronger than the Liberal Party would be if there were no third Party in existence. Many men who would in that case have voted for us voted on this occasion as the Labour Party told them i.e. for the Liberals. The Labour Party has "come to stay"...the existence of the third Party deprives us of the full benefits of the 'swing of the pendulum', introduces a new element into politics and confronts us with a new difficulty.
    • Quoted in E. H. H. Green, The Crisis of Conservatism, 1995.
  • [I believe in] the throne...parliamentary institutions...private enterprise and individual opinion against the socialization of the state...equity in the distribution of public burdens and strict maintenance of public faith with the creditors of the state [and] a fresh guarantee of peace by an alliance with France and...Belgium for the defence of our common interests against unprovoked attack.
    • Speech to the Oxford Carlton Club (March 3, 1922).
  • The danger which threatens us comes from Labour...Those who think that the Conservative or Unionist Party, standing as such and disavowing its Liberal allies, could return with a working majority are living in a fools paradise and, if they persist, may easily involve themselves and the country in dangers the outcome of which it is hard to predict.
    • Letter to Parker Smith (11 October, 1922).
  • The first thoughts of an Englishman on appointment to the office of Foreign Secretary must be that he speaks in the name, not of Great Britain only, but of the British Dominions beyond the seas, and that it is his imperative duty to preserve in word and act the diplomatic unity of the British Empire. Our interests are one. Our intercourse must be intimate and constant, and we must speak with one voice in the Councils of the world.
    • 1924. Quoted in H. Blair Neatby, William Lyon Mackenzie King (Methuen, 1963), p. 40.
  • The affairs of the world do not stand still...I could not go, as the representative of His Majesty's Government, to meeting after meeting of the League of Nations, to conference after conference with the representatives of foreign countries, and say, 'Great Britain is without a policy. We have not yet been able to meet all the governments of the Empire, and we can do nothing'. That might be possible for an Empire wholly removed from Europe, which existed in a different hemisphere. It was not possible for an Empire the heart of which lies in Europe.
    • Speech in the House of Commons, 1925. Hansard, Parliamentary Debates (House of Commons), Fifth Series, Vol. 188, cols. 520-1.
  • I tell you I look forward with terror to her [Germany] making war upon us again in ten years.
    • 1925. Quoted in Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain: Vol. II (Cassell, 1940), p. 263.
  • No British Government ever will and ever can risk the bones of a British grenadier.
    • On the Polish Corridor in a letter to Sir Eyre Crowe. (16 February, 1925).
  • We have a peculair interest because the true defence of our country, owing to scientific development, is now no longer the Channel...but upon the Rhine.
    • Speech at the Imperial Conference, 1926.
  • Scratch me and you will find the Nonconformist.
    • 1927. Quoted in Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain: Vol. II (Cassell, 1940), p. 321.
  • Revision is a dangerous word which should never appear in the mouth of a statesman or in the policy of a government until they are prepared to define very clearly the limits within which they think it should take place. We have revised and revised and what have we got for it? What concession once made has any longer kept the value it had before it was revised? Of which of these concessions can it be said that it has tempered feeling in Germany, that it has produced friendly spirit that those who made it desired to promote?
    • Speech in the House of Commons questioning revisions of the Treaty of Versailles (13 April, 1933).
  • Europe is menaced and Germany afflicted by this narrow exclusive and aggressive spirit by which it is a crime to be in favour of peace, and a crime to be a Jew. That is not a Germany to which we can afford to make concessions, to which Europe can afford to give the equality of which the Prime Minister spoke. The further we advance the further Germany recedes. The more we show her willingness to grant, the higher her demands rise.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (27 July, 1936).
  • Gentlemen do not behave in such a way.
    • On the Hoare-Laval Pact 1935. Quoted in Harold Macmillan Winds of Change (Macmillan, 1966), pp. 411-12.
  • I wonder how many members can realise what [the remilitarisation of the Rhineland] means not merely to the excited politicians in Paris, but to the French peasant in his hovel, to the mother who feels that once again the...peril has come near and that once again her children will be mowed down by the scythe of war.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (6 May, 1936).


  • It was cruelly said of Austen Chamberlain that he always played the game and always lost it. But that is really a tribute to his deep sense of honour and loyalty.
    • Harold Macmillan, Winds of Change, p. 174.
  • Warm-hearted, considerate and generous...incapable of a mean action and conscientious to a fault.
    • Sir Anthony Eden, The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (Cassell, 1962), p. 7.

External links

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Simple English

File:Sir (Joseph) Austen
Austen Chamberlain

Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, KG (16 October 186317 March 1937) was a British politician. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. His father was another important politician, Joseph Chamberlain, and his half-brother (they had a different mother) was Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940.


Early Life

Austen was born in Birmingham on the 16 October 1863, but two days later his mother died. His grandparents looked after him and his sister, Beatrice. Austen went to Rugby school, a famous private school, and then studied at the University of Cambridge. He then studied in a political college in Paris and at a university in Berlin. He returned to Britain in 1888.


In 1892, Chamberlain became a Member of Parliament for Worcestershire, as a member of his father's party, the Liberal Unionist Party. The Liberal Unionists worked to keep Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. Chamberlain worked hard for his father, and in 1895 the prime minister gave him a job helping to run the Royal Navy. Chamberlain became important very quickly. In 1903 the new prime minister, Balfour gave him the job of controlling the Post Office. Then in 1904 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for the economy.

In 1906, the government lost the general election, and Chamberlain lost his job in the government. When his father became ill because of a stroke, he helped his father by fighting against Home Rule, the plan to make Ireland independent. In the First World War, Chamberlain got the job responsible for India, and after the war he became Chancellor of the Exchequer again. Here he helped Britain to recover from the war. He was leader of the Conservative Party from 1921 to 1922.

Foreign Secretary

In 1924, the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin gave Chamberlain the job of Foreign Secretary, working with important people from other countries. In 1925. At this time, France and Germany were arguing about war reparations, money paid by the Germans to the countries that won the First World War. Many people were worried that war might start again. Chamberlain met with Gustav Stresemann, the German Foreign secretary. Together with Aristide Briand, they signed the Locarno Pact, an agreement never to use the military to solve problems again. For this, all three men won the Nobel Peace Prize, Chamberlain in 1925, Briand and Stresemann in 1926.

Warnings about Hitler

After the 1929 general election, Chamberlain lost his job as Foreign Secretary. He stayed in parliament, and often argued with the government about their foreign policy (plans). From 1934 until his death in 1937, Chamberlain warned the government about the Nazi Germany, who were building a larger military. Together with Winston Churchill, he argued that Britain should build its military too.

Austen Chamberlain died on 17 March 1937, shortly before his half-brother, Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister.


  • David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain – Gentleman in Politics, Bolton: R. Anderson, 1985.

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